Luxury travel is no longer synonymous with the sybaritic extravagance of earlier decades. A fresh wave of eco-conscious adventurers and responsible service providers is reshaping the industry. Proud to be pioneering this wave is global leader in hospitality, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection. Each property in our global portfolio is consistently innovating new ways to conserve resources and nurture the environment. This applies not only to our more established properties, such as our heritage London stays, but to our newest launches, too. Opening in June 2020, our latest addition, Xigera Safari Lodge, is located in the watery wilds of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Ahead of its opening, we ask why interest in eco-travel has skyrocketed and what sustainable luxury means today.

Redefining the luxury travel sphere

For the forward-thinking traveller, a getaway goes deeper than ticking off blockbuster sites in a standard itinerary. The emphasis has shifted towards meaningful interactions and unique experiences, while simultaneously considering the earth and all those who inhabit it. Increasingly, thoughtful jetsetters are considering the wider impact of their trip. Are our leisure pursuits conducive to supporting the region’s wildlife and ecosystems? Does the local community prosper? What can we do to give back? These are all questions posed by the ethical world-wanderer.

Highly educated and environmentally aware, clued-up travellers are driving the demand for luxurious eco-breaks. 'Luxury and eco-centricity traditionally belonged at the opposite ends of the tourism industry. However, the renewed interest from the most affluent concerning eco-holidays has given rise to a new type of travel, known as luxury eco-tourism,' says Konstantina Boutsioukou, Associate Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData. Luxury travel no longer comes with a harmful environmental price tag, and studies show that those with a higher household income are the most likely to book an eco-tourism trip. 'Our results go in hand with general trends that show that eco-conscious consumers are driving the need for support of sustainable practices from an array of industries,' continues Boutsioukou. Considerate shoppers look to understand the social, environmental and economic impact of their spending, prior to supporting a brand. It is how, where and why a product was procured that is the overarching concern, be it an item of clothing or a holiday. The green-minded consumer looks beyond glossy labels and misleading packaging when making any form of purchase.

Pairing sustainable tourism with luxury travel

Eco-conscious vacationers can now press play on first-rate experiences the world over. Working alongside the TreadRight Foundation, Red Carnation Hotels strives to safeguard the environments and communities that are touched by tourism. The goal is to ensure that these remain exactly as they are for generations to come. Our sustainable hotels deliver prime hospitality, while each has been custom-designed to conserve its unique setting and precious ecosystem. Bushmans Kloof, a sumptuous South African wilderness reserve, serves the surrounding communities and safeguards the region’s national heritage sites. The hotel is the proud guardian of the planet’s largest outdoor gallery—a vast collection of ancient rock art, some created 10,000 years ago. In partnership with the Cape Leopard Trust, the reserve fiercely protects the elusive big cat that roams the Cederberg. Seven expertly trained Anatolian shepherd dogs now watch over the local livestock and chase off the leopards, removing the need for community residents to interfere and potentially harm them. Elsewhere in South Africa, The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa is dedicated to conserving Cape Town’s valuable water supplies. Its committed Water Team regularly introduces sustainable measures for conserving water, from reusable ice cubes to techniques to collect and reroute otherwise wasted water and rain water. Such innovations mean that guests still enjoy all of the exemplary amenities associated with a five-star stay without spoiling the earth. Sustainable luxury is all about finding smart solutions which benefit both the environment and the traveller.

Red Carnation Hotels has designed every aspect of its Xigera Safari Lodge with this in mind. The lodge sits on the cusp of the copious wilds of the Moremi Game Reserve and is surrounded by luscious greenery and vast, open plains. With the goal of keeping its footprint light, the lodge comprises 12 thoughtfully considered suites. Each of these champions elegant African artwork and artisan crafts to establish a design that echoes the colours, textures and culture of its location. Guests can look forward to world-class hospitality and delectable dining that goes above and beyond their expectations, while completely immersed in the remote African bush. Gaze out at the wetlands, inhabited by grunting hippos and crashing elephants, lions and giraffes. Xigera (pronounced ‘Kee-jera’) has been constructed with the help of a specialist arborist to ensure as many trees as possible remain in their rightful place. Together with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Red Carnation Hotels will carefully survey the region’s native fauna and flora in order to protect the entire area surrounding the lodge. An Earth Cycler composter has been installed, enabling Xigera Safari Lodge to supply the local community with compost for their garden projects, as has an immense solar farm—perhaps the largest in the Delta. This will power the lodge’s game-drive vehicles while an electrical centre has been set up to monitor and optimise its specially adapted green initiatives. Plastic straws, water bottles, and packaging are but a handful of items that will never come to Xigera, in line with the important work that each Red Carnation Hotel has done to remove single-use plastics. Instead, expect ingenious and delightful alternatives made from bamboo and stainless steel, glass and recycled materials.

Marrying fine dining with the best environmental practice

Sustainable dining solutions that secure a brighter future for all are presently enjoyed across Red Carnation’s global fleet, from our sumptuous South African hotels to a luxurious English country manor. Come breakfast time, our indulgent morning buffet has undergone a comprehensive plastic-free makeover. Single-use cereal packets and jam and butter pots have been cast aside, in favour of help-yourself glass jars filled with granola and popular cereals, homemade jams and preserves. The butter for your morning toast is now beautifully presented in a ceramic dish. We use our homegrown organic produce where possible and only ever select free-range eggs, with the majority of our ingredients sourced from suppliers close by. Sustainable luxury best succeeds when ethical conduct heightens the overall experience for the consumer. Farm-to-table fine dining is now a key trend in hospitality, with the story behind each ingredient on the table a significant talking point.

Championing organic produce, Dorset’s Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant poses an example of how thinking green elevates our guests’ stays. Throughout the year, the hotel’s dedicated gardeners cultivate seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs in its kitchen gardens, from fresh lettuce leaves and cucumbers to edible flowers for a colourful salad. Executive Head Chef Steven Titman’s thoughtfully designed wine dinners and tasting menus celebrate the region’s finest ingredients and seasonal produce. Following a plant-based diet? Feast on creative vegetarian cuisine, including an aromatic vegetable couscous, and save space for a heavenly apple terrine for dessert. Meanwhile, the carnivorous can tuck into Summer Lodge’s freshest, garden-to-fork greens alongside rich cuts of Exmoor venison. Summer Lodge recycles leftover food in its compost pile—even excess coffee grounds are used to fertilise new plants, reducing the need for artificial chemicals. Doing its utmost to nurture nature, a multi-story bug hotel has been constructed in the hotel’s gardens, too, made with old wood stacks and mud.

In the heart of the British capital, where space is at a premium, two of our pioneering properties have marked out a quiet corner for beehives. Approximately 120,000 bees live atop The Chesterfield Mayfair’s London roof at the height of summer. The hotel harvests their fragrant honey and serves it to guests at breakfast. The Chesterfield Bees cover a radius of approximately three miles, which includes HM The Queen’s prestigious residence at Buckingham Palace, in addition to Clarence House and St James’s Palace, and nearby private gardens and leafy expanses such as St James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park. A joint initiative between Bedford Estates and The Montague on the Gardens, a swarm of 20,000 bees now inhabits Bloomsbury, too. 'Cities don’t have to be sterile. They can be a home to lots of creatures as well as humans,' says beekeeper Paul Walton, whose substantial 30 years of experience marked him as the best man to bring bees to Bloomsbury. Paul tells us about the process of introducing them to Montague Street Gardens: 'I’ve kept bees on the farms belonging to the Duke of Bedfordshire’s estate for many years. I also tend the hives in the Dowager Duchess’ private garden. This led to a request to teach a small team from the Bloomsbury estate office to become beekeepers. I taught them the basics before inviting them for a practical day among my own hives on the Duke’s estate. Simultaneously, an area was selected in the garden behind the office on Montague Street that would be most suitable to house two beehives. This was paved and planted by the gardeners and prepared for the arrival of the bees, which were brought down to London from Lady Tavistock’s own hives.' The bees provide the organic honey served at The Montague and play a vital role in supporting the surrounding ecosystem.

Planning for the future, Hotel d’Angleterre in Geneva is trialling a system to measure food wastage in partnership with Kitro. 'Currently, one of Red Carnation Hotels’ major priorities is getting to grips with food waste. We want to know what the overall percentage of food wastage is at each hotel and what exactly is being wasted,' says Managing Director, Jonathan Raggett. 'At the end of the six-month trial period, we will review the data collected and may then roll this initiative out across the hotel collection in order to reduce food wastage. Single-use toiletries and the mini shampoo and shower gel bottles traditionally offered in the bathrooms of luxury hotels is another area we are looking to reinvent. We seek a way forward that befits the prestige of our five-star hotels while also being sustainable.'

Each Red Carnation Hotel is committed to offering guests a luxurious experience and generous hospitality, while simultaneously supporting the environment.